In England, were place surnames more prevalent than occupational surnames (Baker, Potter, Hatter, etc...) or vice versa? I have searched Google & saw mixed results at best.

  • Not sure what kind of measureable you are looking for - number of persons with a name derived from each category or number of surnames in each category. Both also depend on how you treat variant spellings and the time period you are bench-marking. By the way, the link in Ezri Rediker's answer seems to show that, currently, patronymic surnames are have more holders and are more numerous (at least, in the top 100) than the other origin categories.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


In England there were actually four different ways that surnames originated.

  1. Patronymic/Matronymic: usually a religious register that shows family descent.

  2. Descriptive: hair color, charactor, bravery, and so on.

  3. Occupational: having to do with their trade or vocation.

  4. Geographical: the most common origin of English surnames, where they were from.

There is a nice article at this link which will give you further reading, here


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